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Next Steps for improving our heating

Boiler Plus was introduced a year ago, since then the SEA has published ‘Next Steps for Boiler Plus’ which considers how it is being implemented and how to improve it moving forwards.

As technology in modern boilers has improved over recent years, the installation and maintenance standards surrounding their operation have not improved at the same rate. The implementation of the Boiler Plus policy in April 2018 was therefore welcomed by the Sustainable Energy Association (SEA), as it mandated a minimum performance standard for domestic gas boilers in English homes at 92% ErP. Boiler Plus also made timers and room thermostats an explicit requirement for all gas and oil systems, and during installation it was compulsory that an additional energy efficiency measure was also fitted. The increased standards and onus on properly installing boilers to optimise their efficiency was a significant, and necessary, step forward as we strive to reduce energy bills and emissions.

The Government has committed to a review of Boiler Plus one year after its implementation and this provides the opportunity to review the progress in implementing the new standards and importantly to step up the ambition and further improve the efficiency of domestic heating. With the review imminent the SEA has published Next Steps for Boiler Plus, a policy paper which considers how the policy is being implemented and how to improve it moving forwards. SEA advocate using the following steps to advance the effectiveness of the Boiler Plus policy in the review:

  • Explicit mandating of hydraulic balancing

Hydraulic balancing is an ‘expected practice’ within the existing Boiler Plus guidelines although it seems it is hardly ever carried out during installations. This affects the efficiency and therefore quality of the heating system. The one-year Review of Boiler Plus provides the chance to reinforce the importance and need for hydraulic balancing. The Review of the Building Regulations in 2019 presents an opportunity mandate hydraulic balancing.

  • Introducing low flow temperature requirements

The Committee on Climate Change has highlighted that “in order to avoid costly retrofit in the future, buildings must be designed to accommodate low carbon heating options from the start, deliver high levels of energy efficiency, and be resilient to a changing climate.”[1]  Ensuring that both existing and new homes operate at low flow temperatures is essential to ensuring that homes are able to accommodate low carbon heating options and operate efficiently. The next iteration of Boiler Plus should include a requirement for return temperatures to be less than 55°C in new build homes, which will ensure the boiler is operating most effectively and will save the consumer money whilst ensuring their home is warm and comfortable.

  • Extending the policy to cover heat only/system boilers

There are over 350,000 heat only/system boilers in the UK which are not covered by Boiler Plus as it currently stands. This means these households may be operating inefficient boilers which are emitting more carbon and costing consumers more money than is necessary. If the one year review does not take the opportunity to include heat only/system boilers it is estimated that there could be £1.8bn of lost energy bill savings and up to 7.42mtCO2e of lost carbon abatement by 2034.

  • Extending the policy to cover oil boilers

Although highly carbon intensive and against the sentiment of the Government’s Clean Growth Strategy, oil boilers are supported by Government schemes such as ECO and so are still being installed in homes today. As such  they should be covered under Boiler Plus to at least ensure they operate as effectively as they are able. The future of the Boiler Plus policy will be crucial in raising energy efficiency of homes and ensuring that heating systems are operated at optimum levels. It is our hope that the Government use the opportunity presented by the One-Year Review to take steps to increase the effectiveness of the policy and reduce both energy bills and emissions. Action is required now. We cannot afford to wait 5 years until the next review.

[1] https://www.theccc.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/CCC-2018-Progress-Report-to-Parliament.pdf

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2019